Through both in-person and virtual programs, we invite the public to engage in natural curiosity, personal reflection, and dialogue about the topics of death and dying. We partner with death care practitioners, grief workers, artists, authors, and community members across cultures and belief systems to create collaborative learning spaces. We seek to empower participants with information and resources to support end-of-life planning, whether for themselves or a loved one, and through workshops, panel discussions, open forums, and other programs we work to address mortality from frameworks of history and social justice.
Arts & Cultural Events
During the Victorian era when Laurel Hill was founded, it was common for the public to spend recreational and social time in rural cemeteries. In that spirit, the Friends of Laurel Hill curate and host several shows and events throughout the year that invite creativity and life into the cemetery, from live music, immersive theatre, and circus; to programs for families and children; to our annual Outdoor Cinema Series and Market of the Macabre. We work with artists to curate performances that are not only enjoyable but which honor, celebrate, educate, and look critically at the many histories our sites hold.
Nature & Horticulture
The wellness benefits of being outdoors are innumerable, and we offer public programs that seek to provide education and access for everyone to the beautiful green spaces we steward. From seasonal arboretum tours to presentations and workshops on topics such as eco-mindfulness, birding, native plant identification and care, Victorian floriography and more, we invite visitors to learn about and enjoy the natural environment from our knowledgeable horticulture and arboretum staff as well as local experts.
General History Tours
The Friends of Laurel Hill began their public programming nearly 50 years ago with tours of Laurel Hill East, now a national historic landmark. General History tours continue at both locations year-round, with Hot Spots & Storied Plots at Laurel Hill East on the second Saturday and fourth Friday of every month, and Sacred Spaces & Storied Places at Laurel Hill West on the fourth Saturday of every month. These tours are the perfect introduction for anyone who enjoys beautiful art and fascinating history.
In addition to General History, we offer thematic tours throughout the year that are as varied as those buried here. Our tour guides illuminate the lives of permanent residents and the time periods they lived in, highlighting love (and not-quite-love) for Valentine’s Day, Philadelphia’s brewing history with Pints & Plots, veteran stories over the course of history, grave sculptures and symbolism, musical legacies, and even the stories behind mysterious graves and curious deaths.
Pocket of Paradise Walking Tour
Join us for a special walking tour outside of Laurel Hill East (offered 4x a year). Our next tour is schedule for November 18, register here. Highlights include the history of original settlers, rise and fall of Dobson Mills, as well as the second phase of the industrial revolution that included household names such as Pep Boys, Tastykake and Penn Reels. This tour will be led by Hidden City, Paradise residents and the Friends of Laurel Hill. The Friends of Laurel Hill gratefully acknowledges support from PNC Arts Alive, the Connelly Foundation and the RAH Civic Association for this support of the creation and development of the Pocket of Paradise Walking Tour.
The official book club of Laurel Hill. The club will meet once per month on the grounds of Laurel Hill East or Laurel Hill West.
There is no fee to join or attend but registration for each session is required. To offer a unique perspective, each month’s discussion will be led by a different representative of one of the cemeteries whose areas of interest and expertise vary.
The COVID-19 pandemic allowed us to expand our audiences beyond the physical boundaries of our cemeteries and we continue to host virtual tours of the cemeteries and lectures highlighting our horticultural endeavors and history.
The Friends of Laurel Hill present free virtual programs year-round on topics such as history, horticulture, end of life planning and death awareness, author lectures, and more. To watch recordings of past programs, click here.
Though our cemeteries are beautiful to visit all year, fall in the cemeteries is unparalleled. From mid-September through early November, visitors can enjoy outdoor theatre, the Rest in Peace 5K, Soul Crawl nighttime history tours, True Tales from the Tombs where actors portray Laurel Hill’s permanent residents, and fun for the whole family at Fall Family Day. The Friends also host the Gravediggers’ Ball every October, which is the largest fundraising event for the cemeteries.